Memphis, El-Sultan Carpet School, Saqqara and Giza

Trip Start Mar 02, 2007
Trip End Mar 13, 2007

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Sunday, March 4, 2007

Woke up with the sun to start the first real day of the trip! We left to see Memphis, the first capital of Egypt. In the Open Air Museum at Memphis, we saw multiple artifacts. An amazing colossus of Ramasses II made of a single peice of limestone was protected by the elements by a kiosk. Several millenia later, the intricate carved details are still easily seen and distinquished.  

From Memphis, we visited the El-Sultan Carpet School. Here we learned and saw how the handmade carpets were made.  We saw everything from children, mostly girls, just learning how to make carpets all the way up to skilled weavers. The skilled weaver at El-Sultan was considered an artist and basically given carte blanche in his work. His work was phenomenal as they showed off one of his earlier works involving a famous bazaar scene. His work was so detailed and intrinsic that he would be able to construct reversible carpets, without being able to easily distinquish the front from the back.

Afterwords, we went to Saqqara. Here we saw the step pyramid of Djoser, built by his chief architect Imhotep. Saqqara had archeologist working to unearth more mysteries and trying to enter the step pyramid of Djoser. We could barely make out the Bent pyramid in the distance. We also got to see the reminants of failed pyramids (collapsed into rubble or even dust). From Saqqara, we left to visit the Giza plateau. 

From the Giza plateau, a spectacular view of Islamic Cairo can be seen. In a photo of Islamic Cairo you can see an Egyptian Tourism Police (ETP) riding a camel. These folks are responsible for protecting Egypt's historical sites as well as protecting the numerous tourist who visit these sites everyday. The ETP took on the additional responsiblity of protecting the tourists after the vicious attack of numerous international tourists by Islamic terrorists in Luxor. Now generally this is enough protection, but for American tour groups extra precautions are taken. Because of the Islamic terrorists' attitude towards the US, Americans are futher protected by a small entourage of ETP or bodyguards. Additionally, all tours must be carefully planned so that the appropriate number of ETP are on site.

We first visited the great pyramids and even was able to enter the 2nd great pyramid of Khafre/Chephren. Those of us that chose to enter a pyramid were unable to enter Khufu/Cheops's pyramid (the actual great pyramid) due to the time that we arrived. Only a small group people are allowed to enter the great pyramid each day, once in the morning and once in the late afternoon. This is due to humidity levels and trying to continue protecting one of the last 7 wonders of the ancient world. So instead we entered Khafre/Chephren's pyramid. It is interesting how warm and humid the pyramid was inside compared to outside in the nice spring desert air. Not all of the group decided to enter as it required being able to walk stooped very low to the ground down a step slope and then back up another steep slope to just enter the burial chamber where Khafre's sarcophagus resides. You also had to be careful when entering the tunnel into the pyramid because the tunnel narrowed further requiring us to stoop over more. Of course, in my natural clumsiness, I hit my head on the ceiling when it dropped further than I anticipated, but I wouldn't have traded the experience for anything. 

After visiting the 2nd pyramid, we traveled over the great pyramid of Khufu/Cheops and was able to climb it a little bit. Though when you look at the three great pyramids, it appears that the pyramid of Khafre/Chephren (the son of Khufu/Cheops) is the actual great pyramid. He was actually ingenious about constructing his pyramid because his father Khufu/Cheops had decreed that no pyramid was to be taller than his. Instead he built his pyramid at a slightly higher elevation and kept his pyramid smaller according to the law. He then had created the illusion that his pyramid was greater than Khufu's when in fact is was not. The thrid great pyramid was built by Menkaure/Mycerinus (Khufu/Cheops's grandson).

We were then given some spare time to visit Khufu/Cheops's Sun Boat which was very recently found near the base of his great pyramid. This boat was built entirely of wood and papyrus rope. Tar was used as a type of waterproof glue in areas but the majority of the hull was kept together due to the water swelling the wood joints and papyrus rope tight. After seeing the sun boat we traveled down to the Sphinx.

As typical tourist we all snapped phots of the Sphinx in front of the pyramids. The sad part is that the Sphinx is quickly loosing it's face to the weather and even the birds roosting upon it.
Specatular details can still be seen near the tail with is protected by a wall of excavated sand, so we can only imagine the grandure of seeing the Sphinx years ago prior to all of the erosion.

We finished our day by taking a camel ride near the pyramids! Not only did this make for an amazing and fun egyptian shot, but this gave us a unique experience of having rode a camel.
Some folks had difficulting riding but those of us who had any type of horseback riding experience had a definite leg up. The hardest part was staying on top of the camel as it rose and lowered itself to the ground. After that it was a matter of knowing how to post and posting to the enlongated rolling gait of a camel.
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